TAMPA -- Touched down in Florida on Tuesday night and felt like George Clooney in the movie during a coast-to-coast day of travel.
It's always a culture shock -- albeit, a very cool culture shock -- packing up and heading toward spring training following a winter at home. The pitchers and catchers, the sun, the familiar old faces, it's all very inviting. But saying farewell to your family and moving out of your house for six weeks, not so much.
Anyway, when you've been writing baseball as long as I have (20-some years now), the last few days of winter always make for a weird feeling, sort of like those last few days of summer when you were a kid. Probably, there was a big part of you that was excited to see old friends and get started on the new year. And probably, there was another part that dreaded the early morning alarms, the long year and all that homework. Because you knew what was ahead of you.
First leg of my flight, I was lucky enough to, against all odds, change from a middle seat in the back to an exit row at the last minute. Second leg, I went from seat 43D to an aisle in row 23. Yes! The flights were on time, the baggage made it through and hotel check-in was smooth.
Now here we are, and I can tell you this because it happens every year: The moment I walk into the first camp, it's like stepping into the first chapter of a great book that whisks you through until the end. All you want to do is keep reading. Every season is like that, it's why we all keep coming back.
So buckle up and let's go. Come with me through my Grapefruit League travels over the next three weeks. You can ride shotgun. We'll roam from camp to camp, visit with Joba Chamberlain and many others, soak up some sun (hopefully, soon) and smell the leather of the new gloves. Heck, we'll probably pull off the freeway every now and again when we spot a Dairy Queen, too.
Check back here every day. The columns will be front and center, my colleague Danny Knobler and I will have plenty of video reports throughout the spring and I'll stock some off-the-beaten-track slices of camp life -- the anecdotes, the music, the food -- right here in Bull Pennings.
As I tell my friends and neighbors, when you have to pack shorts and sunblock for your job, you've got a pretty sweet gig. And much of the pleasure, as with certain desserts and, yes, great books, is in the sharing.
Sunblock Day? Technically, I suppose, because the sun was out. But let's just say the stuff you've heard about the Florida cold is right on: The car temperature read "49 degrees" when I left the hotel at 9 this morning, and it read "59" when I left Yankees camp around 1:30. Brrrr.
Likes: New Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez's relief upon hearing that Atlanta starter Jair Jurjjen's shoulder injury doesn't appear serious. That's great news for the Braves and Jurjjens, and good news for Vazquez because he became good friends with Jurjjens. "I'm going to call him this afternoon," Vazquez said, smiling. ... Yanks manager Joe Girardi met the press from a front table in an auxiliary tent outside of Legends Field on Wednesday, and what a pleasure it was to be in the same tent as the infamous Alex Rodriguez press conference a year ago and not have to listen to steroids talk. I don't know who was more relieved, Girardi, the Yankees or media members. ... Up in the Air was a terrific movie, incidentally. Perfect role for Clooney. ... Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Delicious, especially the bacon cheeseburger the other night. ... The Foundation, the Grammy-winning disc by the Zac Brown Band, is great fun. Especially Toes (sample lyrics below) and Chicken Fried (lyrics in coming days).
Dislikes: Aw, the mean rental car lady couldn't be talked into a convertible. Cold as it is here, she probably was doing me a favor.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well, the plane touched down
"Just about 3 o'clock
"And the city's still on my mind
"Bikinis and palm trees danced in my head
"I was still in the baggage line
"Concrete and cars are their own prison bars
"Like this life I'm living in
"But the plane brought me farther
"I'm surrounded by water
"And I'm not going back again"
-- Toes, Zac Brown Band